Changing of the guard at J&J as Joaquin Duato named to top job starting January

Johnson & Johnson said Thursday that long-time CEO and chairman Alex Gorsky will be stepping down from his role and handing over the reins to his deputy, executive committee vice-chairman Joaquin Duato, effective January 3. At that point, Gorsky will serve as executive chairman of the company.

"The decision to step aside was one of the most difficult of my career," said Gorsky, but "this is the right time for the company as our organisation is delivering strong performance across all three segments and is positioned for continued success, in addition to this being the right time for me personally, as I focus more on my family due to family health reasons." In its most recent quarter, Johnson & Johnson said sales were up about 27% to $23.3 billion, with prescription drugs making up about half that amount.

The outgoing chief executive said he has "the utmost confidence in Joaquin to lead Johnson & Johnson as [our] next CEO," noting that over the 25 years they have worked together, "he has always demonstrated a passion for solving complex medical and business challenges." Duato's 32-year career at the company includes serving as head of its pharmaceuticals business from 2011 to 2018, before taking on his current role as vice-chairman of the executive committee.

Nearly a decade at the helm

Gorsky has served as chairman and CEO at Johnson & Johnson since 2012 during which the company says its R&D investments have jumped 60% to $12 billion in 2020. A primary focus of these investments has been oncology, with sales in this area growing from approximately $2 billion in 2011 to over $12 billion last year. Meanwhile, Gorsky has overseen "hundreds" of acquisitions and partnerships during his tenure, including the $30-billion purchase of Actelion in 2017, the largest in Johnson & Johnson's history, giving its portfolio of rare-disease treatments a significant boost.

He is also credited with overseeing advances in the company's vaccine programmes, including the deployment of the Ebola and development of the HIV vaccine regimens. More recently, the company developed a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine that has received an emergency-use authorisation in the US, although its rollout has been marred by rare side effects – one of the lingering issue his successor will likely have to address.

"I am honored to serve as Johnson & Johnson's next CEO," stated Duato, adding "we are a global pharmaceutical leader with a robust pipeline of transformational and innovative medicines…As the world continues to face significant health challenges, including the ongoing pandemic, I am inspired by Johnson & Johnson's opportunity to play a key role in meaningfully improving the global trajectory of human health." He also said he was "pleased that I will continue to benefit from [Gorsky's] guidance and insights moving forward."

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